Separating the wheat from the chaff
The article headlined, 'Life-mending or mind-bending?' (South China Morning Post, September 21), raises important questions concerning the provision and regulation of psychological services in the Hong Kong SAR.
Such problems may be reduced or eliminated in future if the public are better informed about the sorts of professional qualifications that are appropriate for providers of such services. Members of the public need to know that, just as they should seek out a qualified medical practitioner when they need medical advice, so they should seek out a qualified mental health practitioner or psychologist, when they need advice or services of a psychological nature. Personal-growth training programmes of the type described in the Post article should be conducted or supervised by a qualified psychologist.
There are currently around 250 psychologists employed in the SAR and the number is growing steadily in line with the number of professional qualifying programmes in psychology offered by the SAR's tertiary institutions.
Unfortunately, at present, there is no legislation regulating the practice of psychologists in the SAR. This means that, unlike practitioners in other professions such as medicine, the law and accountancy, anyone in the SAR may call him or herself a psychologist and offer psychological services to the public. Members of the Hong Kong Psychological Society are currently lobbying support for drafting of a public bill to enact statutory registration of psychologists in SAR.
At present, the only safeguard available to members of the public is provided by the society. Since 1994 it has established and published a voluntary register of qualified psychologists. As of July, 160 psychologists practising in the Hong Kong SAR had been accepted onto the society's voluntary register. They have satisfied strict criteria for professional training and qualification and are bound to adhere to the society's code of professional conduct.
They are recognisable to members of the public in that they are entitled to use 'Reg. Psychol.' (short for Registered Psychologist) after their names. The register is published on the society's Web site: www.hkps.org.hk and the society urges members of the public to use care and discretion when selecting providers of services of a psychological nature.
Hong Kong Psychological Society